Rocket Lab could be just over a year away from launching a private interplanetary mission.
The Rocket Lab mission to Venus may launch as soon as Dec. 30, 2024, Christophe Mandy, lead system engineer for interplanetary missions at the California-based company, said at a meeting of NASA's Venus Exploration Analysis Group on Oct. 30, SpaceNews reported.
SpaceNews later noted that the company added additional information stating that the mission’s launch period extends into 2025, and a launch date has yet to be finalized.
The 695-pound (315 kilograms) Venus Life Finder spacecraft will launch atop a Rocket Lab Electron rocket. It will first enter low Earth orbit, then perform a series of burns to send it on a lunar flyby and onward into deep space for a roughly one-and-a-half year voyage to Venus.
Once at Venus, the spacecraft will release a small probe that will descend into the planet’s atmosphere — where temperatures are much cooler than on its searing surface — to scope out if conditions that could support life exist.
Rocket Lab first announced the mission in 2020, eyeing a 2023 launch. The mission is being developed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and receives support from undisclosed philanthropists.